I recently read an article by Rachel Arndt of Modern Healthcare that says a lot about how healthcare systems should improve patient acquisition. Her article, “Leading hospital systems creating ‘digital front doors’ to foster brand loyalty,” describes a fundamental change in the way healthcare providers view digital. At a time when consumers increasingly go online to search for care, healthcare systems are treating their entire digital presence like a digital front door to care.

She writes, “Many [healthcare systems] have dedicated themselves to creating a ‘digital front door’ to stand out amidst the multitude. That digital front door is key to acquiring new patients and building the kind of brand awareness and loyalty that keeps them coming back.”

In other words, successful healthcare systems are looking at their entire online presence – ranging from their website to their social media spaces – and asking, “How do we make our brand more relevant to patients?”

She cites the example of the Cleveland Clinic, which actively shares content on its website and social spaces in order to acquire and retain patients. The “access and retention” mentality helps the Cleveland Clinic decide what content to choose and share. Content that targets desired patient segments gets a higher priority.

At SIM Partners, we’ve helped many healthcare systems create stronger digital front doors — especially on their websites, which remain important sources for patients as they look for physicians who are the best match for their needs. In fact, not long ago, we blogged about the concept of a digital front door from the perspective of creating more effective find-a-doctor directories and making physician pages more findable. Based on our experience, here’s what we recommend you do in order to strengthen your digital front door for patient access and retention:

  • Strengthen your home base. Your website is your foundation. It’s your media center for sharing content that builds authority around topics that patients seek. It’s the primary search engine patients use to find doctors in their network. A large number of patients coming to your website are looking for physicians. So invest especially in your find-a-physician directory by designing a user-friendly search experience.
  • Get your physician pages in order. A great search experience needs to be complemented by physician pages that improve patient access. Physician pages need to contain accurate data (such as location, hours of operation, and contact information) for physicians to be findable. But to truly encourage patient access, physician pages need to contain content that humanizes physicians (such as videos of their mission statements) and tools such as online scheduling that encourage patients to book appointments. Your physicians are key to gaining patient access. They constitute your brand ambassadors. Make sure those physician pages work for your brand.
  • Unleash your data. If you want people to find your digital front door, you need to get some help from the publishers such as Google and data aggregators such as Neustar that share your location data where people conduct searches – on sites ranging from Yelp to specialty patient rating/review sources. We recommend forming close relationships with the major “data amplifiers” that ensure your data is findable – rather than pay for relationships with tier-two directories. By amplifying your data properly, you’ll make it easier for patients to find your digital front door.

The concept of the digital front door is a powerful way to review patient access and engagement. Viewing your digital presence as a doorway to care forces you to make decisions about what kind of content to publish and where. Taking time to understand how patients find you and where is the key. Once you know what path your patients take to find you, you’ll be ready to encourage them to walk on through your door. Contact SIM Partners. We can help you improve patient access through content, data, and a better user experience.

Eric Borchers

Author Eric Borchers

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